The sound of her bracelets alerted me every evening of her return. The gentle click-clack of her heels coming around the corner, the long day resting on her shoulders. My mother often returned home from her days at the office tired, but she still rose every day to do what had to be done. She worked, she brought home the money, and the job at times, because there wasn’t another option. I knew she longed to be the mother who was afforded the choice to stay at home, greet her children daily after school with a snack, but life didn’t see fit to give her that. Instead, she suffered the burden many working moms do; guilt, anguish, and sadness mixed like a muddled cocktail that you sip begrudgingly.
Being a stay at home mom was never my goal; freedom, however, was. The ability to pick my children up after their days spent reading and playing. For them to never have to spend afternoons in a stranger’s home or a rec room surrounded by abused toys and broken crayons. I’ve been the kid in those places, waiting for my mom to finally write her signature down on the 8×11 sheet to reclaim me at the end of the day. My unpleasant experiences with babysitters and childcare left wounds in me. Most internal and unseen, but the sense of dread is something I promised myself my children would never have to experience. I’ve shared these stories and this pain with my mother. She’s apologized, we’ve laughed at some of the tales, and we’ve shed a few tears; both of us wishing it had been different.
After the birth of my first daughter, during the height of the Recession, there were no jobs to be had. Still, I worked daily. With my her at my feet, I sat at the computer writing my novel, scripts, or business plans, applying for employment. Even with no obligations or a time clock to hold me back, the burden was ever-present. I had to invest in myself. I had to make something happen. Working payless internships with the hopes they would transition to full-time work only to be disappointed more than once. But the burden of needing to care for her weighed heavily on my shoulders like bricks covered in concrete. I wanted to provide, I had to.
Eventually, those scripts and business plans manifested themselves into two notable web series, a thriving clothing company, and a television show that allows me the freedom I’ve always desired. They’ve opened up doors to me that were closed for a long time, though all the doors haven’t been positive.
Now I’m faced with choosing whether I’ll work or whether I’ll pass up an opportunity because it takes me away from my children. With two daughters now and a third arriving soon, I’m riddled with the choice of continuing to catapult my career or slowing down.
If you know me, you’ll know the latter is not really a selection. It’s merely here for looks because I don’t ascribe to the idea that my goals have to play second fiddle to my role as Mom.
Yet, there is the school of thought that says, “Mothering is an endless job.” We’re expected to drop everything for our children, take them everywhere we go, nurse them back to health, keep them on the straight and narrow, mold them into fully functioning adults all while maintaining some sense of self if we can. And if we do manage to make all of this happen, and be attractive then by god, we’re deemed “Supermom.”
I’m not sure if I want that title. What I am sure of is that I want to do all those things and work. I enjoy my job as it allows me to be creative, to utilize my gifts and talents. It gives me purpose even with the presence of stress. The stress isn’t insurmountable; it’s light and it pushes me forward.
What does stress me out are thoughts that my children will suffer from my job. Or that my absence at times will affect them in a negative way. The burden has shifted from me wanting to provide to being afraid of not being present enough.
Although I’m there every day after school, make every parent-teacher conference, and usher my girls out the door faces covered in kisses, when they see me at home my face is often illuminated by the light of a screen. I’m gone for two weeks out of the year filming, I’ve got events to appear at, photo shoots to smile for. What does that do to them?
Dealing with the presence of that guilt, I think about a multitude of other things women are made to feel guilty for. Their pregnancies, the shame of trying to leave an office at a reasonable hour to be with their children, or taking a day when a child is in need of their presence. In response, they hide their bundles of joy for as long as they can, stay signed into their computers so everyone assumes they can always be reached, and what’s a sick day? I’m deciding to shake the monkey off of my back. I no longer want to cling to the weight that makes me feel shitty about loving what I do and wanting more. I am capable of being an outstanding mother and a household name.
Motherhood is a precious gift that I am grateful for. I’m thankful for healthy children and a husband who supports me and my endeavors. I love having the responsibility of raising strong, compassionate women.
What I want for them is to see that they can do it all. They don’t have to choose. It may not always be pretty, glamorous, or easy — but it can be done. They can dream their wildest dreams and be present for bedtime. Their lives don’t have to be limited to doing one or the other.
Being a stay at home mom is just as important as being a working mom and vice versa. The most important thing in this life is to fulfill your purpose, honor your dreams, and chase them with vigor.
The biggest lesson I can teach my girls is that I do all I can to give them everything they need, but it doesn’t mean giving until there’s nothing left for myself. You can’t pour from an empty vessel.
When it’s all said and done I want my girls to grow up knowing that my decision to work was never without thought for them. In fact, they weighed heavily on my choice of whether or not to pursue my desires. I chose to lead by example to empower them to be all they want to be no matter what. That the burdens of life can either weigh them down or be the catalyst they need to be the greatest people they can be.
Here’s to my own mother for toiling away when she wanted to be there, I appreciate you. And to my children, I am here for you forever. And I’m also here for me.